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In "Goodbye Stranger," we see Thompson tackle the mythology again. A case calls to the Winchesters. Sam tells Dean, "Because each of the victims had severe burns around their eyes, hands, and feet, puncture wounds through the backs of their hands, eyes and internal organs liquefied," and they head to the scene to find out what might be happening. They learn that one of the victims had been possessed prior to being killed---and now they have to wonder who might be killing demons and why.
It turns out that it is Castiel, and this raises even further questions, such as Sam's angry one, "Like, where the hell have you been?" Castiel has been working for the mysterious Naomi---and none of his answers can be trusted. She has been training him in simulation to kill Dean, to do her bidding without question---to remold him as the obedient solider. So, he feeds the brothers a lie. "They're looking for a parchment that would allow them to decipher Crowley's half of the Demon Tablet without a Prophet." What he's actually looking for is far more dangerous. He's looking for the Angel Tablet, held safe in one of Lucifer's Crypts.
They find out from the demon they have captured that Crowley has a hostage and they are following her clues. It's none other than Meg---and with the Winchesters in the picture, she decides to lead them to the real one. It sets up for an unexpected conflict between Dean and Castiel as the angel proceeds to beat the hunter at Namoi's order. She wants him to bring the Angel Tablet â€œhome,â€ and if it means going through a Winchester to do it, she will. She, however, doesn't count on the Tablet's effect on Castiel. As he touches it, it breaks her control, and the angel flees into the wind with the Tablet in his possession.
What this episode, as most Thompson episodes are, is full of shout outs to other events in the series. Castiel's beating of Dean here---even with the stopping short prior to the touching of the Tablet---calls out to the hunter's beating at Lucifer's hands. Dean pleads with Castiel much as he had with Sam. Both beatings were done by angels---and both were vicious. And both are healed by Castiel. Meg and Castiel's deep conversation together recalls their history---particularly that of "Caged Heat," and the "pizza man." Meg tells Castiel, "I'm gonna order some pizza and we're gonna move some furniture around. You understand?" It's a touching moment, taking the comedy that was there in that earlier episode and giving it a heartbreaking depth. Meg's hair color change also is a subtle shout out to the original Meg from season 1. She's blonde, forced upon her by Crowley. It's almost a foreshadowing of what is to come towards the end of the episode.
But the biggest shoutout comes in the deep conversation Sam and Meg have. While waiting for Dean and Castiel to emerge with the Tablet, they share a conversation that echoes their first. Thompson shows that his watching the show from beginning to end prior to joining the staff has paid off in spades. And yet, what's beautiful about his writing here is that we see that false conversation they had oh so long ago in that bus station is oh so real here. It has emotional depth, an understanding between the two of them, and almost a bond forming. After all, now that Meg knows all of Sam's deepest secrets, there's nothing to hide anymore. She tells him, â€œBut remember, I spent time in that walking corpse of yours. I know your sad, little thoughts and feelings." They may have been on opposite sides for most of the time, but Sam and Meg have something tangible forming. Meg tells Sam, a vulnerability in her voice towards the end, "Oh, I heard the rest. You fell in love with a unicorn. It was beautiful, then sad, then sadder. I laughed, I cried, I puked in my mouth a little. And honestly, I kind of get it." It's not much different than when she had once told Sam "we're living our own lives. And nobody else's" This time, Meg means it. The sincerity is there.
Thompson doesn't just shout out to the show's history. He peppers this script well with pop culture and clever lines that enhance the story. When they rescue Meg, she is in the same pose as Princess Leia when she had been rescued in Star Wars. He even has Meg snarkily deliver the same line, "Aren't you a little short for a storm trooper?" Dean quips to Sam about the case, "Wait, are we talking a Maximum Overdrive situation here?" The movie plays with the idea of all the machines turning viciously on humanity, including a semi that has a clown painted across its nose. As Sam and Dean argue about who will go into the Crypt, Meg keeps trying to interrupt, and they snap in unison, "Shut up, Meg," a shout out to Family Guy. On that cartoon, Peter, her father, often tells her to shut up the same way. After Castiel is more or less exposed for lying, Dean states, "I saw you Zero Dark Thirty that demon." Thompson even proves here that he pays attention to the online fandom with the callout to "Megstiel." The biggest pop culture moment, of course, is the title and its corresponding song playing. Supertramp's "Goodbye Stranger,"seems a fitting song choice for many reasons---particularly in a call out to Meg herself. Thompson states about the song, "i believe The Carver had the song fade out at the end during the mix of the episode, which i thought was a great choice [sic]."
Thompson loves to write snappy dialogue, and this script is no different. He puts in clever lines, witty dialogue, and quotable lines throughout. As Sam and Dean argue about what to do with Castiel, the angel says in his deadpan fashion, "You know, I can hear you both. I am a celestial being." Dean tells Sam, â€œSo, somebody's killing demons. Well, that is awesome. I feel like we should send a card or flowers. What kind of flower says "thanks for killing demons"? After they confront Cas, Dean quips, "Well, he puts the "ass" in "Cass," huh?" But Meg steals the best lines for herself. After Sam is appalled that she would sacrifice innocents to save herself, she tells him flatly, "Hi, I'm Meg. I'm a demon.â€ After she tells them where she thinks the Crypt is located on the modern map, they ask her more, and she snaps, "Do I look like Google to you?"
Meg. She's really fleshed out in this episode, even if it is to be her last. She, of all the villains they've faced through the series, has the most in common with the Winchesters. She's been vicious, cruel, and frightening at times certainly, but it is her motivations and beliefs that reflect the brother's own. She is loyal---first to her father, Azazel, and then to Lucifer. Meg may be a demon and she may not be tenderhearted in her nature, but she has always acted out of some form of love, too. It's also one reason why she's been effective against the brothers. She gets them in a way that few other enemies ever will, and she knows what their weaknesses are because often they are her own. We see this in her anger at the brothers in "Shadow"when she snaps, "I'm doing this for the same reasons you do what you do: loyalty. Love."
Over time, her allegiances have shifted. Once Azazel was removed from the picture by Dean, she became fiercely loyal to Lucifer. She is there waiting with hell hounds in Carthege to help his cause against the Winchesters as they take the infamous Colt with a plan to kill the Devil. Even after he's put back into the Cage, Meg remains loyal as an opposition leader to Crowley's emerging power. And yet, by season 7, as they face down the Leviathan, Meg's loyalty is subtly shifting yet again. At first it is only to Castiel, but in "Survival of the Fittest,â€ she took bullets for the cause and now in "Goodbye Stranger," Meg has become firmly loyal to those who were once her arch enemies: the Winchesters themselves. She even goes as far as to sacrifice herself for them, distracting Crowley so they can make a getaway. It is a fitting study of her character in Thompson's capable hands as he makes Meg a fully rounded and cherished character---only to send her out in a blaze of glory.
The undercurrent of this episode, however, is that of the brothers themselves. They are both scared about what the first trial is doing to Sam, and it is becoming a bit contentious for them. Sam covered up his bloody rag by claiming he mis-swallowed. Dean accepts it until he finds the bloody rag. They fight in front of both Castiel and Meg about what is happening to the younger Winchester, leaving Sam to stand guard with Meg. They are undertaking something difficult with a sketchy roadmap at best, and it is making both of them nervous. It isn't until they're alone, however, that we see them bring this out into the open. Dean tells Sam, "Listen, man, I can't take any more lies -- from anyone." Sam readily admits that he should have come clean, but says, "I-I... just wanted to believe I was okay. I don't know." It thrusts things into the open here, and we see the brothers recommit to be on the same page. Thompson shows that he can handle the Winchesters well---giving them emotional depth and connection that makes the journey worthwhile. Dean tells Sam, "Listen, I may not be able to carry the burden that comes along with these trials... But I can carry you." It reaffirms that no matter the destination---be it finding their father or killing Azazel or breaking Dean's Deal---they are doing this together. The conversation borders on chickflick, but steers clear with Sam calling out Dean's line, stating, "You... realize you kind of just quoted "Lord of the Rings," right?"